“Do Less. Pray More. (Three Attitudes to Cultivate Intimacy with God.)”
By Michael Pfau, guest writer (See description below.)
I was talking recently to Andy, a friend and pastor, about lessons we both have learned over the years. He summarized beautifully what we were both trying to say in the phrase, “Do less. Pray more.” This goes against my natural tendency to try and get things done, achieve results, work hard, reach goals, be an achiever, stay connected, and remain plugged in. I’m often driven by distraction and activity. I’ve come to understand that intimacy with God in our fast-paced world can happen. God-empowered results can occur, if I approach Him with three attitudes.
First, recognize whose power really changes things
It goes against our nature to sit, wait, and rest in His great presence. To “be still and know He is God” is not easy. However, a desperate person knows how to pray. When we have nothing to bring we become great pray-ers. Our competency actually works against our awareness in prayer, and thus, prayer itself.
Spurgeon wrote, “Prayer doesn’t fit us for the greater work, prayer IS the greater work.” Why is this true? Because it puts the focus back on God to bring about the type of change that the most significant parts of life require. Changing a husband’s heart to choose love instead of divorce is not like changing a light bulb. Yet I can find myself leaning on my training, knowledge, and experience rather than on prayer. Perhaps you can identify. This happens because our competence actually works against prayer — the spirit of abiding and a praying life. Remember, it is “not by might, not by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”
You’ll recall that Acts 13:2-3 mentions the activity of the prophets and teachers in the church of Antioch. It says, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” It was as a result of purposely setting aside time to be in God’s presence that God revealed His heart and will for the church. There is no evidence that these men were praying a particular prayer, let alone thinking of sending out a missionary team. Instead they worshipped, fasted, and waited before the Lord, allowing Him to reveal His plan to them.
As I examine my own heart about the tendency to act more and pray less I’ve come to realize pride may be my motivation. I want to figure it out on my own so I can get credit and have the spotlight on me; after all, I’m the “expert,” right? Sometimes I want God to hurry up and answer my prayer for any number of reasons. I get tired of waiting and I step in where I should be patiently abiding. This type of motivation steals the glory from God. Remember, it is God’s power that changes things as you rest before the Lord and discover not only what He wants to do but how He plans to accomplish it.
Second, quiet your heart
When you have your “quiet time,” is it truly a QUIET time? I often wake with thoughts racing and swirling around my head. The day’s cares and details press in like storm troopers on the gate of my mind and heart, threatening to overwhelm me. So when I go to prayer I must be intentional to still these thoughts and quiet my mind.
I’ve also noticed that I can be anxious while trying to pray through a matter. My emotions are so engaged that I find it hard to hear God’s voice because I’m thinking of all the ways something may or may not work out. Let the noise and clamor cease. We can get so caught up in the appointments that are on our calendar, projects that need our attention, people issues that seem like they will swallow up our life, that there is no room for our hearts and minds to hear God’s still, small voice.
One wonderful remedy I’ve found is to start out in praise and worship of our sovereign, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. He created the universe and desires to commune with us. “Be still and know He is God.” Once it is fixed in my heart just Who I am encountering, my soul gets settled. I’m able to relax and enjoy His great presence.
Third, recognize that God actually likes spending time with you
We misunderstand our relationship with God when we think that our time with Him is one-directional and only for our benefit. Sure, we are to receive from God. “In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who puts his trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8).
Yet, did you ever stop to think that God actually enjoys the time you set aside to be in His presence? Remember, He created Adam and Eve and walked with them in the garden. Surely these were times of reciprocal delight between Creator and creation. Psalm 149:4 states, “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.” Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
So how do we actually receive His love and pleasure? We start by recognizing that spending time with God is not like hanging out with friends. It usually takes time to develop the “Spirit eyes and ears” needed to connect with Him. At first it can feel awkward and contrived and even like we are making it up. However, like any new endeavor, if we give intentional effort and have a strategy, the sense of His delight will come. This may sound like work, and initially it could feel that way. Yet, the more we still our hearts, rest in His presence, and just open our souls to receive from and give to the Lord — the more we will learn to walk with Him throughout the day and find joy beyond what any other relationship can give.
My hope and prayer for you is that by doing less and praying more you will find an ever-deepening dependence and intimacy with God.
Copyright © 2012 Michael Pfau. All rights reserved.
Michael Pfau is a professional life coach who helps people live the second half of life with purpose, passion, and significance. He is currently in a coaching relationship with Daniel Henderson. You can discover more about him and check out resources to help you at www.crosswayslifecoaching.com.